What is this you're looking at? It could be the perfect place to do some sort of awesome vintage photo shoot. Like this engagement photo session from Green Wedding Shoes. However, the people in these photos aren't dolled-up models or smitten romantics. They are not in some exotic location with all sorts of vintage circus props flown in from The Wringling Brothers. Nope. It's just the Long and Zienty kids hanging out in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Before I move on to tell you the story behind this picture, can we please admire the photo's charming awkwardness? The Zienty children look like perfect little angels who make it a habit to look cute and normal in photos. The Long children are, as usual, doing something to offset that sense of normalcy (but clearly still contributing to the cuteness). My sister, Carolyn, is flaunting stylin' overalls and a classic "come hither" head tilt. The outfit and pose are perfect...the blinking, not so much. Carolyn has since learned how to keep her eyes open for pictures, but there was a period in her life where she struggled with the plague of the photo blinks. This captured blinking moment really takes me back. Oh the memories. My studly brother, Stephen, is on the far right in the stripes. Always a miniature version of a gentleman, I'm not surprised to see him striking the ol' hands-behind-the-back and wide-manly-stance poses. He had practically reached the maturity level of a 40 year-old man by the time he was 10. He's probably around age 5 here so that would put him at what maturity level, 20? Sounds about right. Such a cutie. Front and center (most likely a strategic and intentional placement on my part) you can see me showcasing my diva attitude by trying to suck all the attention toward myself. Further speaking to my inner diva, I'm attempting to channel my best Vanna White impression as I show off the circus sign and my shapely 8 year-old physique. With all those elements combined, how can you not be charmed by this pic?
Now you're dying to know WHY we're standing in front of a circus truck in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, aren't you? Lucky for you, I'm going to share the story.
Mama Long and Mama Zienty read in some Oklahoma travel book that a collection of circus performers spends the winter in Hugo, OK (population 5,000). Apparently you could see the animals and all the wonders of the circus while they're recharging for the next tour. So one day five kids and two adults piled into one little station wagon and drove three hours to Hugo in search of this wintering circus. It was a LONG drive. Carolyn and Heidi even wrote a song while we drove along that I still remember today:
Welcome to nowhere.
Nothing to do, and nothing to see.
Nowhere to go, and Nowhere to be.
Welcome to nowhere.
So anyway, after driving through nowhere for three hours, we made it to Hugo. Unfortunately the circus workers who were wintering wouldn't let us anywhere near anything circus-related. They told us this was not a tourist destination and we were not welcome. Forget the fact that we had just driven three hours for nothing; the circus folk were too busy to be bothered by a bunch of Tulsans ("big city folk").
Mama Long and Mama Zienty were in a pickle: they were in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma with five kids on the verge of breakdowns. So, they improvised. We went through some sort of museum in a small house that had pictures of exciting things like "the 12-foot tall man" and "the world's smallest pig." Since that didn't kill enough time to make the cumulative six hours of driving worthwhile, we also visited the circus graveyard where the best of the circus world had been buried (such as Chuckles the Clown).
Problem for Becky: This visit inconveniently overlapped with a phase in my life that required me to hold my breath whenever I was in the vicinity of a graveyard (don't want anyone's lost souls being inhaled into my body, you know). The thought of going INSIDE a graveyard was...unfathomable. So once I had been coaxed into the graveyard, I spent the first minute or so refusing to breathe. My mother yelled at me until I was practically purple and on the verge of fainting, then I took a breath. Let me tell you, I was NOT happy about tromping around that place and inhaling dead spirits. By the time we left, I was sure that a good 10 dead clowns were leaving with me. (And, as previously mentioned, I really don't like clowns.)
It was a traumatizing experience, and yet one that I will remember forever. I mean, you haven't fully lived until you've traveled to Hugo, been turned away by a group of disgruntled circus performers, and walked around a circus graveyard. What's that? You haven't checked any of those activities off your bucket list yet? I suggest you get on it ASAP.